Monday, September 19, 2011

Aarduous Täsk

My friend Manny made up the name Aarduous Täsk when we worked at Paddy's Restaurant in Misquamicut one summer.  The restaurant business brought out the need for a well-conceived and smartly-expressed sense of humor to offset the regular battery of in-your-face confrontations that would occur at any point in the day, busy and hectic or slow and labored.  The ability to laugh in the face of offense became as important a skill as knowing where the lemon-wedges were in the walk-in cooler during lunch-time.  Your ability to pay the rent was in direct relationship with your ability to maintain a aggressively healthy attitude.

Attitude is important.  Other names for it are "heart", "backbone", "spirit", "gumption".  It's not muscle or speed that wins at the Olympics, though without those you'll never even get there- at the end of the trial it's attitude that brings you to the Gold Medal.  What a waste to get there and lose, because you had no attitude in place.

The deal with attitude is that you don't get any, unless you get yourself into that special position of being sold-out to what you're doing.  It's another example of "taking the plunge", as it were:  You have to walk into it and get up to your chest- you have to be where you can't get out any more without going all the way through.  This kind of decision-making immediately changes things in your life and perspective, and now the only thing that's very sharply focused in your field of vision is THE GOAL... it's such that a kind of desperation sets in, the kind of desperation that creates that sharp focus.  A low level of adrenalin becomes present in your system, and the prospect of trying to escape the present situation threatens to invite panic, and then loss... but the prospect of completion, of attainment- that becomes a shining beacon before you.  Properly reconciled, all that is good, bright and hopeful awaits at the end of your now full-on, all-consuming commitment.  You don't get attitude without getting some dirt on your face, a little (or a lot of) grime under your fingernails.  You're going to have to clean up when you're all done- but it's a mark of successful rite-of-passage to where you need to be in your life.

Get some attitude.  It doesn't mean you have to become unfriendly, or unkind, or boorish to your friends, it just means learning that the real muscle comes from within. 

Friday, April 22, 2011


People believe what they feel makes them belong in their skin.  Belief is personal.

Religion is the practice of applying/imposing one's own belief to/upon the lives of others.  Religion is social.

Belief is non-threatening, non-engaging socially.  It's one's own coping mechanism, and operates quietly within the most intimate confines of one's inner life.

Religion is culture, and is woven into and through a society.  Religion brings tension close behind, like a dutiful sister-in-tow:  It seeks conflict by its very nature, and speaks of its own interest.  And conflict always comes.  Sides are formed over lines in the proverbial sand...

Ozzy Osbourne, in his song "Rock N' Roll", sings, "Rock n' Roll is my religion and my law".  This bold, jagged line flies in the face of our organized, denominational, sectarian monotheistic society with its forward sentiment and matter-of-fact, challenging delivery.  Rock n' roll is and always has been about rebellion, and the throwing off of artificial mores and behaviors of the prevailing popular culture.  This is especially true as relates to the ordering of such social straitening established by the religious authorities-at-large with threats of eternal separation from God, in their constant and vigorous attempts to homogenize society and discourage the cultivation of personal identity, free thought, social interaction and innovation.  People are easier to herd about, after all, when they are made to behave like a "flock" of simple creatures with a common idea.  In "Rock N' Roll" Mr. Osbourne declares his conflict with, and throws a stone in the path of what he sees as an oppressive prevailing popular culture, by means of his own diametrically-opposed, perhaps desperation-driven counter-culture.  Leave it to the Brits to put a humorous spin on the bitter pill of torment-borne cynicism.

Religion is social...

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I always refer to the coming of springtime as the "onset" of spring, as opposed to the "advent".  This is because it tends to be a long, slow, anti-climactic curve into warm weather, replete with all the environmental disruptions that naturally accompany such long, slow changes in the natural world.

The prevailing temperature segues from really really freezing to "temperate"- 50s or so into April, bringing warmer air temperatures, rain, and bouts of gray, lowering, cool dampness... the kind of air-borne "wet"  that cuts through your clothing and sucks away your naturally generated body heat, making the +/- 50-degree air temperature feel more like high 30s, unless the sun happens to be out that day.  In the early morning the prevailing temperature may be as low as high 20s or low-30s.  All-in-all, springtime brings with it not only the promise of sunny, warm days to come, but also the kind of weather we New Englanders call Raw.  One endures the onset of spring.

The piles of "snirt" (snow/dirt) that lie along your habitrails and tower over Target and Home Depot parking lots remain for weeks, piled up by the town or city snow-plows in front of your house and down the road, lining and straitening the way to school and work.  If, like us, you only have street parking, then over the tormentive weeks of spring-time change from winter to warmth you get to experience the slow-but-pretty-sure "joy" of inching closer to where the sidewalk actually exists in front of your abode, allowing you to periodically nudge your vehicle a little further off the middle of the street and toward the sidewalk.  You eventually find yourself experiencing the particular,  pleasurable relief that can only come from the soles of your shoes actually making contact with the surface of the steps that lead to your front door, newly (perhaps only mostly) unencumbered from the cold months of built-up frozen slush... now as likely to be un-frozen, puddly, grimy slush you take new pains to not track into your living room.  Still, it's nice to be able to see the ground.

So, yes.  Spring.  Ah, the pleasure, the new lightness of being, the awakening to new life and a brand-new start for all...  Meanwhile I'm still wearing my long underwear and not leaving the house without a hat.  We'll talk to you in another four weeks.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Today I have a chest infection.  It's Monday and I'm home with my kid who's got the day off school... she's sleeping, the wife is off to her twice-a-week cna job, the younger's at school.  I've been working regularly, which is great.  I've been sick for about 4 days now though, which sucks, and today it's come to a head.  I'm making a doctor's appointment next, but I hate going to the doctor.  No one likes it really, I guess...

Going to the doctor means, among other things, getting looked at in a way that you don't look at yourself.  There you sit, patiently, a mere subject under the steady, seeking gaze of impersonal examination by what may well be a complete stranger, looking over/into your physicality for something you know nothing about...  It implies a knowledge about you that you yourself don't possess, and that can be unsettling:  Remember in elementary school when a group of kids would be talking, several- or all- of them look over at you, turn again to themselves and some of them begin to laugh?  Ever have that experience?  Maybe it was all girls, maybe boys, it didn't matter.  They KNEW something!  It was ABOUT YOU, and it made you feel like there was probably something embarrassingly out of order, something "wrong" with you.  Only years later did you discover there was nothing wrong with you at all... but now you're at the doctor's office, and maybe something really is...

Going to the doctor means you're going to get prodded, poked, or otherwise personally imposed upon.  Maybe even "violated".  There's the possibility of an invasive episode:  Your most-coveted personal space is set at odds with the anxiety of knowing that, at the doctor's office, you are vulnerable- and you can't defend yourself at the doctor's office.  This is not your back yard, not your regular, well-traveled and established personal habitrail where you can exert influence that effects your environment in favorable ways...  There is, for most of us, no regularly, well-beaten path to the doctor's office.  It's a place that, when your health is in a state of compromise in some fashion, you have to "go to".  The realization is often accompanied by a sigh, maybe a slight, imperceptible flinch...  You're going to have to take your clothes off, or lay on your back, or put up with a strange hand touching you in that place where you're tickle-ish (and have to keep it together).

And then there are the needles.  My eldest hates needles... once three nurses had to hold her down to get her vaccination from a fourth.  Boy was that a drag.  She's a little better with it now, but I've worried about her.  She's alright though- an amazingly resilient and surprisingly reasonable kid, my 12 year-old.

Going to the doctor is something no one likes to do.  I have to go today.  But going to the  doctor is one of those less-than-pleasant experiences that help us to appreciate the little things in life, things that offer little 'goodnesses' that we tend to forget about (like not having to go to the doctor).  Like our favorite tv show we'll get to see while we're in bed afterward, perhaps convalescing from some minor sickness; the promise of ice-cream after that tonsillectomy; or perhaps the thought of re-stringing our favorite instrument with those new strings we haven't had time to throw on...  Even something like the remembrance of our favorite poster hanging in our comfortably-familiar room brings peace and settling to an otherwise agitated, anxiety-fatigued mind.

Anyhow,  yeah, the doctor.  Today.  I am reminded that I actually avoided a follow-up appointment that should have happened about three months ago (as concerns a particular issue), and now I have to go for something else... I can hear it now, "...I never saw you for that follow-up..."  I don't know what I'll say, I'll probably mutter something about 'being busy', and hope he'll let it go by.  But I'll get to go home afterward, and I'll throw those Rotosound "Tru-Bass" strings on my Fender Jazz Bass...

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I don't have a drinking problem, not really.  I actually am not an alcoholic, don't drink to anything near excess, and don't spend a lot of time with those who do.  But when I do drink, things happen, and mostly at home.

We are a sensitive people:  To environments, to people and their states and their intelligence.  My wife and I both have also had a lifetime of difficult relationships, starting with childhood.  They say you find your parents in later life as mate choices.  You can work that into a pretty good case, and you can dismiss it with some good citations as well.  But you can't deny where you've been, and it does seem to hold true in large part, that one seeks that which is like what one already knows in life.  I mean, what- don't many of us keep having to re-take the same "test" many times over in the course of a lifetime?  Don't the same scenarios, in different settings/contexts, appear in our lives?  Often they are the ones that run deepest, that are the most woven into our psyche and therefore the most difficult, most complex to dig up.  We avoid those, but they don't go away.  They keep coming back.

I have some issues in regards to,... I'll start with volatility.  I was called "volatile" once by an ex band-mate after my summary dismissal from a band.  I in fact took part in the dismissal and the set-up for it in the first place by putting myself in a vulnerable position with them.  A friend not in this particular group had cancer, and I wanted to do a benefit for him.  I knew that, they finding him disagreeable for their own reasons, I would be in the ruts with them afterward.  But the gig was a party for their friends and a bunch of good PR for their band, so it went down.  It was successful, but my own sentence, so to speak, had been written.  In a letter I received after my firing (quitting?), I was told I had, among a short list of alleged issues, a "volatile personality".  Well, my wife agreed with that one... I flinched.

But it's true and I know it.  And I'm sometimes able to 'go off', in a low-level way, on something that might seem trivial or missing the more obvious point.  But I have a perspective, and sometimes don't state the obvious, but speak according to where I am in my own track of thought.  Whatever, I can generally explain myself when pressed, if I'm willing to.  I can pretty well make myself understood.  But when I have a beer or so in me, well, it can 'move up a notch' in intensity.  Worse, it can even 'open a door' for something potentially hurtful to someone else, that I'm not even really taking part in.  It's usually in the form of a stray spoken word that escapes from my lips and goes like a shot to the most vulnerable person in the room...  My wife calls it "The Devil".  I hate that.

At any rate, analyze it and turn it around all you want, it doesn't matter.  It's trouble however you call it, and if I want to keep the good thing I've got I'm going to have to deal.  When I met my wife, I knew I was going to have to hold her up in ways.  It's part of any partnership/commitment like this, and that person has agreed to trust you.  And then if you bring in new people (make babies), they have no say in the matter at all- and you really have to hold them up, protect them, be trustworthy. Children mostly singularly define the word "vulnerable".

So I'm quitting.  Drinking I mean.  Right now.  I'm aware, as I write this, that I'm making quite a bold proclamation for a guy who plays gigs in a couple bands with other like miscreant-types, and spends time around large crowds at Portuguese Holy-Ghost Festivals... yep, it's going to be a commitment that will test my resolve (read:  "character") and not step aside from before my eyes.  And everyone who knows will be watching.  But hey, nothing can come of not drinking alcohol that could possibly be meaningfully detrimental!  In fact I'll be healthier, my prostate will have a better chance of a long and useful term, my skin might not get quite so dry in winter, and I won't spend any bread on beer. 

"Your wife told you can't drink??"  Well no, actually that's not it.  The (at least immediate) future of our household- of my kids, of my marriage, health and perceivable security of our home depends on whatever stability and good ground I can provide for.  This is my chance to save the day, to break open a way to redeem years of screwing up.  And it's for someone else's happiness too, really, which is very meaningful indeed.  Especially for me... 

Besides, I play better when I'm not drunk.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Obvious

I'm back to work.  That is a great relief, and changes the entire look of the road before me.  Of course it does!  ...Stating the obvious has always been sort of a strong suit I guess.  But it's not so much what we do, as how we do it, isn't it?  Stating the obvious is ok if you have a novel angle to offer along with it.  Then it becomes "insight", and thus new information... and that's the thing we're after in this endeavor of writing, I suppose:  To "open it up", as it were, and get to the good stuff of life that's got hidden in those nooks and crannies so easily calloused-over with the wear and use of a day.  We write to provoke and to encourage the seeking out of that now-blurred inspiration we once had, not so long ago, bringing it again clearly into view for the refreshing of the spirit and renewing of the outlook.

We tend to go numb over time, you see, and forget the whats and hows that come of those *fleeting but bright* inspirational moments (we are a creative creature, after all).  In fact we might even fail to recognize those tiny glimpses of the heavenly when we soldier on, doggedly, nose-to-the-grindstone without a break. We need to maintain- yea, I say to re-create our selves- on a regular basis.  It's like checking the oil in your car:  Your engine will eventually seize...

In a similar way, my morning can become transformed from the drab nowhere-going routine it threatens to "bloom" into to a scape of almost-glimmering, hopeful possibilities, with a mere adjustment to my point of view.  A little help can really make it happen:  This morning I am refreshed with the glad and hopeful burden of having to get my narrow ass over to a house to replace some exterior doors.  It's an odd-job I took on to hold my suffering morale upright until regular work could rear it's homely-but-happy head, and so I must do it its honor.  Besides, it's for a friend and musical associate, and I have my future to think about... obviously.

I hope things turn around for us all, for good, soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Resolve, or Something Similar

I've rediscovered my Fostex Model 250 4-track cassette recorder.  I got it a couple years ago for $50, with the manual.  It all works!  A bit finicky, but it's an old booger and sounds good, like me.  : )  So I'm spending a few short evenings a week with it, dropping bits on it to turn into songs, or parts of songs.  There's only so much you can do with 4 tracks of bass guitar, but it's a start.  There are a couple other instruments around... but I have an ad in the venerable for a drummer, and will try and avoid the morass of tormentive "local talent" that is sure to surface, and circle, slowly...

Gigs are slow so far, and I presume that it's because of the poor market at-large we're experiencing.  I am beginning to wonder how some of my neighbors, let alone myself, are surviving... but we're a resilient creature, made of hopeful stuff- so we shall survive, one innovative way or another.  Like the Fantastic Mr. Fox, we shall rise to the surface, even if it's from underground.  Inspiration of the day.

My life is nonetheless full of negotiating- even every moment at home is a continually-morphing labyrinth of politics, desires, anxiety, etc... and in large part it's brought on by the constant reconciling with the iron demands of the outside world:  A world that establishes its own order, having bolted-shut the side-doors and window exits to alternate paths for achievement, and personal success, on one's own terms.  School, for example... "No Child Left Behind".  Do we need to get into that?  It would be more straightforward and honest to just divide us all by a standard, set up ghettos and potato farms, and get on with it.

There's never been a harder time to be creative- but because of that, there's probably never been a potentially more rewarding time, or more fertile ground to plow into.  The deeper the peril, the higher the ground of success.  I have to run with that.  So we're off for the high ground.  God bless us... this is gonna leave a mark.

Monday, January 31, 2011

State of the Life

On the good side...

I picked up my old Trace Elliot MK IV bass head the other day.  I had to, because the shop will begin to charge me for keeping it after it's fixed, and because I don't want to become an albatross to them!  But man, does that amp sound good!  It's a 1984 or so model, and sounds way better to my ears than the 1990s SMX-series I also have.  Go figure- the older one is made of better parts, was made when the company still had to be top-notch as a new entry into the market, and had fewer bells and whistles to offer- more attention was paid to basiscs.  And the uv light works!  See?...


I played it last night jamming with a drummer, and the thing sounds great.  Only an SVT would make me happier- albeit it's an entirely different animal.  So maybe not.

Anyway, that's one.  Another is that my wife got a 'raise' at her church organist job.  Nice.  A small thing, but meaningful.

What else is new... well, I guess mention of 'the raise' will bring me to why that is so meaningful.  And now the bad side... I'm out of work.  And way behind in everything.  That sucks.

I got a phone call this morning after not hearing the expected call over the weekend, and was informed there is nothing for the week.  Not only because of the weather, but because the inside jobs have stalled as well.  No bids have been returned, or called in about.  I applied for a job last week as a maintenance man at an 'old folks' day care center, in anticipation of such a turn in the road.  No response as of yet.  I have a small odd-job or two to finish, and then I'm in Screwed-Land.  So I'm off to apply for whatever I can find.  I don't know what else to say or write about just now... I have no savvy angles, no clever turns-of-phrase, or insights to offer up.  I'm flat as a floor-tile, dry as a stale biscuit.  Almost downright bewildered...

Hopefully there'll be something to write about soon, after this wall of a predicament comes tumbling down before me, hopefully without crushing me under it.  I'll be back, for one reason or another!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Properly Dressed

I played a gig last night with that venerable country/rock/70s electric-hippie-pop-thing known as "The Millrats" here in Greenville, RI.  There was some new music on the list, a decent crowd showed up, and everyone played well.  We really weren't bad at all for a group that hardly ever rehearses; in fact we had some pretty stellar moments, and playing was fun.  My old Bag End cabs I sold to the venue's proprietor last year were there on the stage, and my Mexican Fender Jazz Bass, strung with LaBella flats, sounded like the Definitive Voice of God through 'em, as always.

I wore my Target-bought Fedora with pinstripes, black leather vest and purple button-down shirt recently procured from the local Salvation Army, and my new round, tortoise-shell bi-focals from Zenni Optical ($40!).  Clean carpenter's-jeans and my just-bought 'Caterpillar' work boots completed my look for the evening.  Why go on about what I was wearing?  Because today's entry is all about image.

I spent much of  my earlier years in a cloud of personal oblivion.  As an early-twenty-er I'd wear blue jeans with great gaping gashes in the knees and a pair of cheap black dress shoes.  I would mix and match modes of dress to beyond the point of obvious confusion, making great awkward stretches between the incongruous.  I often created fashion disasters of the like that you might, on a rare day, see reference to in the pages of People Magazine, Rolling Stone, or Yahoo!'s news page.  I generally had little regard for what I walked around in, not only in the presence of my peers but before people whom I might otherwise have liked to be able to talk to.  I was a walking alienation-stick, clobbering right between the eyes anyone I came within range of who had had the ability to see.

A good friend of mine, willing to go a short stretch of sidewalk in the open with me beside him, once tagged me as dressing "warehouse".  I was making my way through life with an altogether strange idea of what I was, yet his comment was key in exposing to me that I had been purposefully manipulating the perception of other people's views of me.  Maybe it was so no one would expect much from me, maybe I just felt like I wanted to be invisible.  Maybe I was just being lazy!  But here I was called out- and not the first time- and was becoming increasingly aware that I was going to have to fix this present-ability issue.

I simply wasn't getting away from the fact that I did have 'something to offer' after all- that those who knew me did in fact expect more, and they wanted it!  I felt like I was being called back into the party after being caught trying to leave through the service entrance...  But it was good to be wanted; even to be asked to 'pull it together'  so that your friends could be in your company and experience the best of you... so your life could enrich and enhance theirs.  Something to offer.  This concept was so much better than the self-protection of isolation!  Slowly, I turned... step by step... and pulled it together.  Mostly!...

For me, playing music is always getting closer to being where I want to be, whatever the genre or form for the session/evening.  It's the station in life I want to inhabit as a rule.  It's still work, only more mobile than being a laborer or carpenter, more open socially and contextually.  As a musician who experiences some humble level of success, I can "be" anything, not tied to the limiting rank of my tool-belt or overalls.  It's almost, and just enough, really, freedom.  Present-ability expedites my happy endeavor of pursuing that not-science that I love of "making the sound", especially in concert with other musicians, and in the audience of revelers and contemplatives alike to transcend the mundane.  So I want to honor it, to be at my best.

I don't want to stand out, as it were- I hate that and can't abide "being seen" like some strutting peacock.  I simply want to fit the glove I put on; because in truth, the glove does fit.  So part of the deal now is that I pay attention to my perceivable, physical aspect, even if what I put on doesn't always qualify me as fashion-plate material.  But it's orderly at least, and I'm beginning to get the hang of it.